2012 Winners

VISUAL ARTS

BENH ZEITLIN

Benh Zeitlin was the director of the film Beasts of the Southern Wild, which was based on a script adapted from a one-act play, with sets created from found objects and a cast made up of nonprofessionals from the Louisiana community of Montegut. The movie, widely celebrated for its blending of magical realism and authenticity, won the Caméra d’Or Award at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival.

This award was presented by Claire Shipman, ABC News Correspondent

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SOCIAL PROGRESS

BRYAN STEVENSON

Bryan Stevenson, the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, argued the two cases that led to the Supreme Court decision to ban all mandatory sentences of life without parole for juveniles. For his work, Stevenson has received a MacArthur Fellowship, the Olaf Palme International Prize, the Ford Foundation Visionaries Award and several other honors.

This award was presented by Rep. John Lewis, veteran of the Civil Rights Movement and Congressman for Georgia’s 5th District

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YOUTH

JACK ANDRAKA

Jack Andraka developed a paper sensor that can detect a protein that serves as a biomarker for pancreatic cancer, with the potential to offer a fast, accurate and inexpensive means of detecting the disease early. For his work, Andraka received the $75,000 grand prize at this year’s Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

This award was presented by Claire Shipman, ABC News Correspondent.

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TECHNOLOGY

ELON MUSK

Elon Musk is the founder and CEO of SpaceX, whose Dragon space capsule became the first commercial vehicle to attach to the International Space Station. After spending two days in graduate school at Stanford University, Musk dropped out and started a string of companies. One early effort: PayPal, for moving money online. He followed up with Tesla Motors, maker of premium electric cars, and SpaceX. He also provided the idea for SolarCity, the nation’s largest provider of solar energy systems; he is chairman of the company’s board. He says he is planning to retire to Mars.

This award was presented by General John R. "Jack" Dailey, Director of the National Air and Space Museum.

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PERFORMING ARTS

ESPERANZA SPALDING

Esperanza Spalding won Best New Artist at the Grammy Awards in 2011, becoming the first jazz artist to win that category. She is being recognized for both updating the jazz experience and taking it to a wider audience. In 2009, when President Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize, she performed at the concert honoring him. She has released five solo albums and collaborated on more than a dozen others. Spalding splits her time between New York City and Austin, Texas.

This award was presented by Herbie Hancock, multiple Grammy Award-winner.

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PHYSICAL SCIENCES

JIM ANDERSON

In 2012, Jim Anderson, who has been studying chemical interactions in the atmosphere for decades, documented a relationship between climate change and the depletion of the ozone layer, two planetary threats that scientists had long insisted were separate. By developing and deploying new observational tools and techniques, he hopes to mitigate the effects of climate change. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

This award was presented by Kirk Johnson, director of the National Museum of Natural History.

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HISTORICAL SCHOLARSHIP

ANNE KELLY KNOWLES

Anne Kelly Knowles has pioneered the combined use of mapmaking and databases in historical research. Her work has illuminated subjects ranging from what Lee could see on the Gettysburg battlefield to how SS concentration camps operated in World War II. She is an associate professor of geography at Middlebury College in Vermont.

This award was presented by Michael Beschloss, historian and political commenter.

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NATURAL SCIENCES

PARDIS SABETI

Pardis Sabeti is using computational genetics to improve our understanding of the human genome and the microorganisms that cause human disease, including such devastating microbes as the Lassa fever virus and the malaria parasite. She’s also a member of the rock band Thousand Days. Sabeti is an associate professor at Harvard University, and a senior associate member of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT.

This award was presented by Art Molella, director of the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation.

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EDUCATION

SEBASTIAN THRUN

Sebastian Thrun was teaching at Stanford University when he put a free course in artificial intelligence on the Internet. After 160,000 people enrolled, he left his paid faculty position to found Udacity this year to explore ways of revolutionizing online learning. While on a sabbatical at Google, he helped develop the Street View mapping feature, the driverless car and augmented-reality glasses. In addition to serving as Udacity’s CEO, Thrun remains a research professor at Stanford University and a Google Fellow.

This award was presented by Charles Best, founder of Donorschoose.org.

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